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The Lonely Pecan Tree

The Lonely Pecan Tree

Photo by Deannie Hughes
The Lonely Pecan Tree

Some of you who live outside the “Pecan Belt”may have a beautiful healthy pecan tree that never has pecans. You might even have two or more trees that never have pecans. Maybe some years there are just a few nuts but most years nothing at all. You might even have a tree that sets a bumper crop every year and they all fall off during the summer. If there are no other pecan trees aroud for a mile or so, you have a lonely pecan tree.

Pecan trees have an interesting sex life. They have both male and female flowers on the same tree that are wind pollinated. To avoid self pollination (in-breeding), the male flowers are not open at the same time as the female flowers. This explains why you can have two or more trees of the same variety and still have no pecans. A few varieties have a day or two of overlap and are referred to as “self pollinating”. these trees will sometimes set an extremely light crop of poor quality nuts. Some trees will set a bumper crop of nuts that fall off during the summer. They nuts were not pollinated so they do not develop and fall off. Most trees will not set any pecans without a pollinator. Shop Pecan Trees

You can play matchmaker for your lonely pecan tree by finding a pollinator for it. Not just any pecan tree will do. You have to have a tree of the opposite type from yours. If you know the name of the variety you have, great, you can look up its bloom type and pick a variety to match it. Pecan Grafting at Rock Bridge Trees

If you do not know, then, you have to do some CSI work. This is done by observing the trees in spring to see which flowers open first.

If the male flowers or catkins open first, it is a type 1 called protandrous. These catkins are short and fat.

Type 1 pecan catkins
Type 1 pecan catkins

If the female flowers open first, it is a type 2 or protogynous. The male catkins on a protogynous tree are long and thin.

Photo by PMG
Type 2 pecan flowers

Male flowers are a pretty good indicator of type since they are distinctly different.

The female flowers are tiny nutlets with an open end. The female flowers are difficult to see from the ground without a pair of binoculars.

Female pecan flowers
Female pecan flowers

You only need one pollinator tree for every ten trees of the other type to set a crop of pecans.

There are excellent improved varieties of both types available so, your pollinator trees will be just as productive as your other trees.

There is one other issue with unproductive pecan trees, especially in northern areas. Some varieties will not ripen up north. Some southern pecan varieties have been sold into areas where the season is too short or there is not enough heat to ripen the pecans. The trees will grow just fine. They may even be pollinated by other pecans in the neighborhood. Cold weather will catch the pecans not fully ripened every year leaving you with a pile of unfilled pecans.

If you have room, a partial solution is to plant a compatible northern variety nearby and allow the southern tree to pollinate it. At least that will give you one productive tree.

The lonely pecan tree is still a beautiful tree but, a little matchmaking can make it both beautiful and productive.Pecan pies from your own pecans are always the best. Shop Pecan Trees